Asparagus Servers, their Origin and Use

Sterling Influences: Early Spring Stalks

Asparagus, in earlier centuries going by such names as “sparrow grass” and “sparagrass,” was cultivated by the Romans as early as 200 BCE.  Though consumption waned during the Middle Ages, it was revived during the reign of Louis XIV.  Thomas Jefferson sowed asparagus seeds at Monticello, and noted in his writings the vegetable’s first appearance each spring.  Mary Jefferson Randolph’s directions for cooking the dish were quite detailed, from scraping the stalks and correctly tying the bundles, to timing the cooking so as to bring out their “…true flavour and colour,” noting that “a minute or two more boiling destroys both.”1  The appearance of this harbinger of spring was cause for much celebration, and specialized servers were designed to enhance the experience.


"Yoked" asparagus tongs, London, circa 1846 (# 24437)
"Yoked" asparagus tongs, London, circa 1846 (# 24437)

The earliest asparagus servers date from the mid 18th century, and were scissor-like tongs with narrow corrugated arms.  As the 18th century gave way to the 19th, asparagus servers widened, taking the form of bow-back tongs with a collar or yoke – a form more commonly seen on the market today.



Individual asparagus tongs, London, circa 1909 (# 64809)
Individual asparagus tongs, London, circa 1909 (# 64809)








Hinged asparagus tongs fitted with a spring appeared in England, on the European Continent and in the United states by the mid 19th century, and by the late 19th century American silversmiths were making a very practical fork-shaped asparagus server.  These asparagus forks usually, but not always, had blunt tines, to prevent tearing of the delicate stalks, as well as a shovel-like curve. 


Asparagus fork, St. Cloud by Gorham (# 70570)
Asparagus fork, St. Cloud by Gorham (# 70570)


Specialty silver trays were eventually made for the serving of asparagus:  These were rectangular or oblong in form, with a pierced liner which kept the stalks from sitting in liquid.  And although it is quite correct to eat asparagus with the fingers, individual asparagus tongs were introduced in the 19th century, by silversmiths catering to either the self-conscious or to those Victorians wanting to demonstrate Man’s superiority over all other creatures.

Asparagus Tray, Gorham Mfg. Co., Providence, Rhode Island, circa 1915
Asparagus Tray, Gorham Mfg. Co., Providence, Rhode Island, circa 1915 (# 61472)

Hot or chilled, served plain, marinated, or with a rich hollondaise sauce, asparagus has been celebrated for centuries.


— Joseph P. Brady, Silver Historian, 2009

 1   Dining at Monticello, edited by Damon Lee Fowler, p 61

A new day, a new price of silver!

Much like the price of oil, gold, and stocks, the price of silver fluctuates every minute to reflect the bid and purchase of pure silver in the open market.  And, just like oil, gold, and stocks, the price of silver has been extremely volatile in recent months.

What does this mean for you?  It impacts the prices you pay for silver, the value of the silver you already own, and the potential price your silver might realize should you choose to sell.  For the collection you own, now may be the time to check with your insurance company and have your set reappraised.  If you haven’t had it evaluated, especially since a marriage long ago or an inheritance, now could be the time to ensure that your collection is properly accounted for. 

We use to follow the price of silver, and we do look at it every single day.  Go here, to follow along!

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Sourcing information about the history of sterling silver in the United States is difficult task.  Changing technologies and new ways that people search for information and collectibles have led to the creation of this blog by one of America’s prominent retailers of secondhand sterling silver flatware and holloware.

One thing is certain – the shop’s founder is like her own best merchandise: unique and malleable, an enduring symbol of both a forebear’s gift and a future bequest, its value and beauty only increasing with time.

The value and inherent beauty of sterling silver has led to its fascination for generations past and future owners.  Let this blog be a source for information for the use, style, manufacturers, and users of sterling silver.

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